Former SS member Heinrich Boere was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing three civilians in Nazi-occupied Holland.
Boere, 88, had admitted to the district court in Aachen, Germany, that he shot the three in 1944, but insisted he was following military orders and could have faced imprisonment in a concentration camp or the death penalty if he refused.
The shootings were ordered in reprisal for attacks carried out by the Dutch resistance.
Lead judge Gerd Nohl said that the murders were of “practically incomparable maliciousness and cowardice—beyond the decency of any soldier,” according to German news reports. The defendant, who is half German and half Dutch, was an enthusiastic National Socialist and handed over fellow citizens to be executed, the judge said.
Efraim Zuroff, Israel director and chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised the efforts of prosecutor Ulrich Maas and said the trial proved that Holocaust perpetrators could still be held accountable for their crimes.
“The conviction of Boere, who volunteered to join the SS and openly admitted the crimes he committed, is an important reminder that the overwhelming majority of the murderers of the Holocaust did so willingly and without any coercion whatsoever,” Zuroff said in a statement.
“Despite the passage of decades, this trial clearly shows that Nazi war criminals can still be brought to justice if there is political will to do so, which unfortunately is not the case in most European countries,” he said.
Zuroff has been among many observers of the ongoing trial in Munich of John Demjanjuk, 89, for involvement in more than 29,000 murders in the Sobibor death camp.
Boere had told Focus magazine last year that he was following orders.
“It was not difficult: You just had to bend a finger,” he said.
After the war, Boere was found guilty of murder in Holland and fled to Germany, where he took on German citizenship. Meanwhile, the Dutch death sentence was commuted to a life sentence.